Pizza nights, sporting events and hot summer days — they're all made a bit better with beer. But if you're following a gluten-free diet, a cold glass may ruin a perfectly fun event.
Unlike liquor and wine, beer is not gluten-free. While some rumors may allege that light beer is safe to drink, those following a gluten-free diet will want to avoid these, too. Instead, opt for some gluten-free beer brands.
Is Beer Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and these grains' derivatives.
Unlike hard alcohol and wine, which are generally gluten-free, beer contains gluten and should be avoided if you're following a gluten-free diet, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. Hard liquor, like whisky or vodka, is made with gluten-based grains; however, the gluten is removed during the distillation process, which nearly all hard liquor undergoes.
On the other hand, wine is made of grapes and is naturally gluten-free.
Beer, though, is typically made with a combination of malted barley and hops and, in some cases, even wheat, according to Beyond Celiac. As with all liquor, beer can also have gluten-based flavoring ingredients added to the bottle even after the alcohol is produced.
Gluten-free beer can't be made with barley, wheat or rye (the three main gluten ingredients) in order to comply with the FDA's gluten-free standards.
Light Beer and Gluten
Contrary to popular belief, light beers aren't gluten-free either. Like standard beer, light beer is made with barley or wheat, which means it does contain gluten.
Most commonly, light beer is brewed by adding an ingredient called glucoamylase to the alcohol before fermentation, according to a March 2014 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
This ingredient metabolizes some of the carbohydrate content of the beer, leaving you with a less caloric final product. However, the ingredients used to produce the light beer aren't changed, nor is the gluten filtered out of the beer. So, there will still be gluten in light beer.
Wine Coolers and Gluten
Generally, bottled wine coolers aren't gluten-free either. While some of these may be made with vodka or tequila, which are gluten-free liquors, the added ingredients like flavorings generally include malt, which is barley-based and contains gluten, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
Similarly, cocktail mixers can include added gluten ingredients, despite that the alcohol may be gluten-free. To stay safe, mix your own drinks rather than buying pre-made cocktails, recommends Shena Jaramillo, RD. Or, opt for wine, which is a safe choice for people on a GF diet.
Gluten-removed beers are not safe for people with celiac, according to Beyond Celiac.
How to Find Gluten-Free Beer
While traditional beer is not GF, there are some specialty gluten-free beers available. But you'll have to read the bottle labels carefully to ensure you're making a safe purchase.
Always read the ingredient list of any gluten-free beer (or product in general) you decide to buy. Look out for any gluten-based additives and check the allergen listing for wheat or gluten, too.
Then, find a "Gluten-Free" label on the front of the box or bottle. This label is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration and signifies that the food you're eating is less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is generally safe for gluten-sensitive people to consume.
FYI, gluten-free beer can't be made with barley, wheat or rye (the three main gluten ingredients) in order to comply with the FDA's gluten-free standards.